The federal government has said the demand by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is unrealistic and cannot be met.
However, as the union meets with the federal government today, the association has stated that it has lost confidence in the
government for making promises it could not keep after agreements had been reached.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who made the federal government’s position known during an interactive session with editors in Lagos at the
weekend, disclosed that government would on Friday, launch a new initiative to enhance the country’s revenue. She also reeled out the achievements of the administration.
In addition, she revealed that presently, loans have been disbursed to 800,000 farmers under the Anchor Borrower’s Programme, with about N120 billion disbursed so far.
According to Ahmed, ASUU needs to face the reality that “the economy is not buoyant for us to pay them.”
The university lecturers have been on strike since November 5, 2018.
Among other demands, the lecturers are demanding the payment of their outstanding revitalisation fund of N1.1
trillion, which they insisted the government should be releasing in tranches of N220 billion to be spread over the four quarters of 2019.
But Ahmed, who was responding to a question on the matter explained,
“ASUU is on a strike again, and for us in government, the strike is something that has become a matter of routine and it saddens us.
“We were told by ASUU that some years back there were some negotiations and some commitment by the previous
administration to provide ASUU about N1. 1trillion. They are asking for N1.1 trillion, where will we get N1.1 trillion to give to ASUU?
“It is not realistic; so we told them the best we can is N20 billion and we gave them N20 billion last year.
“And this year also the government has also approved another N20 billion to give to them and that is being processed.”
The minister, who urged the lecturers to be understanding, noted that the deficit in the education sector cannot be addressed in one year.
“As we speak, the Accountant General is processing N20 billion for ASUU, and another N15.8 billion in what is called earned arrears.
“So, ASUU needs to face the reality that the economy is not buoyant for us to pay them N1.1 trillion. It is simply not possible. Because the resources are not available
for us to do that even if they are, you have to also ask whether the university system as it is structured has that absorptive capacity.”
Continuing, she said the federal government’s whistle- blowing initiative has yielded a significant amount of returns.
She disclosed that as of September 2018, total recoveries made by the government through the policy was put at N8.5 billion, and $465 million, she said.
In addition, about 1,050 investigations are currently ongoing, by the anti-corruption agency.
“And we expect significant recoveries from these efforts as well. The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS)
programme closed in June 2018, it yielded revenues of N92.7 billion in declared tax liabilities, N35 billion of these have been
collected, the balances we have negotiated for the tax payers to pay over a period of two years.